Remember to thank your mentors


Lorna Marquardt, Leader Columnist

One day, before retiring from serving as mayor, I received a card at City Hall that meant the world to me. It was from someone I hired while working at Citizens Bank (now Associated Bank). It was a thank you note from a former teller who wrote to tell me how much it meant to her that I believed in her. She said I inspired her and helped her become the person she is today. She said she considered me a role model and a friend. I shut my office door so visitors to City Hall didn’t see my tears.

What a wonderful and humbling thing to hear, learning you have been a positive influence on someone’s life! Why am I telling you this? Because we all have people in our lives who helped to mold us; people who have seen talent and ability within us that we have not seen in ourselves. People who have brought out the best in us. But how often have we actually taken the time to let that person know how they inspired us?

There have been many people who inspired, motivated and taught me. One such person was my English teacher and forensics coach, Lillian Abrahamson. She passed away last year. Fortunately, prior to her passing, I wrote to her and told her I was in the Class of 1963. I didn’t know if she would remember me; we had not seen one another for more than 50 years. I told her I would love to take her out to lunch and gave her my contact information.

To my delight, she called one day and told me her daughter was bringing her to Shawano and she would love to have lunch. I am so glad I had the chance to tell her what an impact she had on my life. While in high school, Mrs. Abrahamson sought me out and asked me to join the Forensics Club. She gave me confidence. She inspired me to write, and with her help I wrote speeches that made it to state competition. She also cast me in lead roles in school plays. I remember being Lady McBeth. I actually remember many of my lines. “Out damn spot, out I say.”

Mrs. Abrahamson saw something in me I did not see myself. She was my mentor, she was my friend. I am a better person for having known her. Her eyes glistened as she hugged me and thanked me for telling her. I will long remember our reunion.

Along life’s journey, I’ve had many mentors, people I’ve learned from; people I admire. Like many of you, I haven’t told all of them how much they’ve meant to me. One such person is Nancy Syndergaard. I don’t believe I ever properly thanked her for the patience and help she afforded me when I was first elected alderperson. Nancy served the public with enthusiasm and integrity. She welcomed me on board and encouraged me to study the monthly packets and to come to meetings prepared. Nancy had her pulse on the community; she was a doer. Thank you, Nancy. I stayed in local government for 22 years because you showed me the joy of serving our community.

Another person who was an inspiration/mentor was Lisa Acra. Although I was her manager, I think I learned more from her than she learned from me. Lisa has a way of making the sun shine during a thunderstorm. Maya Angelou once said: “It doesn’t matter if you are the smartest person in the room. If you’re not someone who people want to be around, you won’t get far. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Lisa is one of those people who is so upbeat and so real, you just feel good being around her. Thank you, Lisa, for inspiring me and teaching me how important laughter is in the workplace. Thank you for showing me the power of positive thinking.

Have you told people who have been a role model in your life “thank you”? If not, perhaps now would be a good time to do that.

Remember, you, too, have been a mentor to someone, and they are a better person because of you! Hopefully someday someone you have inspired will contact you.

“At the end of the day, it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished. … It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.” — Denzel Washington

Answer to last week’s question: In June 1955, 2,000 motorcyclists gathered in Shawano for their state convention.

Question: Why was the opening of school delayed in 1955?

Rest high up on that mountain, Petronell (Pet) Martin. You will be missed.

Lorna Marquardt is a former mayor of Shawano.